Illinois State University graduate David Congalton returns to campus this week to pass on the wit and wisdom of a Hollywood career that was years in the making.
Congalton wrote the original screenplay for the 2014 feature film Authors Anonymous, about a group of struggling writers, and starring Kaley Cuoco, Teri Polo and Dennis Farina. Congalton's day job is in radio, and he told WGLT's Laura Kennedy that when it comes to writing, putting pen to paper isn't enough to find success, you've got to make personal connections with people. And, like the saying goes, you've got to write what you know.
Those lesson were learned after spending years writing scripts that went absolutely nowhere. "I wrote eight really bad scripts, I mean these things were awful. And I fell on my face."
So Congalton licked his wounds, decided his dream to be a screenwriter was not to be and instead pursued work in the media, first at a newspaper, then in radio, hosting his own show at KVEC in California. After a number of years, some friends talked him into giving screen writing one last try.
"And this time around, the difference was that I wrote from the heart and I wrote what I knew about, which is writers. That first time around, I was writing the big commercial concept ideas, like what if a dog becomes human and has 24 hours to rescue his kidnapped owner."
"Authors Anonymous came from my experience as a struggling writer. So what's the message here? The message is when you write what you know and you write from the heart, you have a much better chance of selling a screenplay. And I got Authors Anonymous sold because I always stress the other part of it is that it's not enough to be a good writer, you have to find somebody who knows that you're a good writer and believes in you and is willing to advocate for you."
A casting director friend of Congalton took the script an showed it around Hollywood, resulting in a deal for the writer. He's also penned Seven Sisters, which is currently in pre-production.
Congalton is delivering the lecture, George Clooney Laughed: (Mostly) True Tales of a Hollywood Writer at 7 PM, April 6 in ISU's Capen Auditorium. His lecture follows a free screening of Authors Anonymous.